Most people no more think of checking for chimney safety than they check to see if the pantry is infested with ostriches, and yet chimney safety is important. There is of course a need to run ones eye over the stack from time to time, just to make sure the pot isn’t starting to lean over at an interesting angle, or that the cowl is about to fall off, but there are other slightly less obvious things that one does need to be aware of.
Do you smell smoke in the bedroom ever?
The smell of smoke in the bedroom could well be a warning that there is a slight structural problem in the chimney liner and a hole has developed between the flue from the downstairs appliance and the flue that serves the bedroom. This is something that will only get worse with time and it does need to be addressed, as where there is smoke, there are fumes, and where there are fumes, there is carbon monoxide.
The last thing that you want is the deteriorating chimney liner to allow fumes into a bedroom where someone may be sleeping, especially if they are children, as they are more susceptible to monoxide poisoning.
For those who are not familiar with the causes, here is a brief explanation…
Causes of smelling smoke in a bedroom
We categorise the chimneys most at risk as ‘Victorian’, because of the style of construction. They moved away from the Georgian style, which involved using a lime mortar and switched to a cement mortar. What they failed to see was that cement is a very basic (alkaline) compound which would chemically react with the acids in the flue gases to form salts. What was worse still was that the salt particles were bigger than the cement ones, so that the mortar corroded like iron does, expanding and becoming more porous, thus allowing the acid condensate to penetrate further with time.
So, when the Victorians built their chimneys with cement mortar, and then lined them with the same mix, they didn’t realise how badly it would be attacked by the flue gasses.
This problem was then compounded by the way they designed the upper portion of the stacks. Where the flues came together, they eliminated a layer of the bricks between the flues, not realising that those walls that were between two flues would be attacked at twice the rate of the outside walls. Finally, those internal walls weren’t tied in to the outer walls of the stack, but were simply stacked there, and were only held in place by the vulnerable mortar.
This style of chimney construction was only outlawed from 1965, so we still apply the term ‘Victorian’ to chimneys built up to 1965.
What to do if you smell smoke in a bedroom
So, whenever you smell smoke in a room where there isn’t a fire, it really does pay to call in a certified chimney sweep, and get their opinion on your chimney safety. They will be able to advise you on what steps to take and what tests to carry out to identify if you really do have a problem.
There is an exception to this diagnosis when you smell smoke in a room that doesn’t have a fire in it, and that is siphonage. Please follow this link to our article on siphonage.
So to recap.
- Pay attention if you smell smoke in a bedroom, or in any other room that doesn’t have a fire.
- Call in a certified chimney sweep
- Test the chimney to see if there is a connecting breach.
- Carry out the necessary repairs/relining to eliminate the problem.
- Know how to identify siphonage so you can eliminate it as a cause, as its treatment is very different